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What is Parental Responsibility?

The legal definition of Parental Responsibility is broad and has been stated as all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property”. This was defined in Section 3 of the Children Act 1989.

This could include:

  • Providing a safe residence or home for the child
  • Protecting the health and safety of a child
  • Maintaining the health of the child including food, water and hygiene
  • Disciplining the child
  • Choosing and providing for the child’s education
  • Ensuring that the child receives medical treatment if/when necessary
  • Naming the child and managing any necessary change of name
  • Looking after the child’s property or belongings

Who has Parental Responsibility?

All mothers and most fathers have legal rights and responsibilities as a parent - known as ‘parental responsibility’. This includes the following people:

  • Birthmothers (this applies whether they are married or not);
  • Fathers if they were married to the child’s mother at the time of the child’s birth;
  • Unmarried fathers, provided the child was born after 1 December 2003 AND provided that the parents jointly registered the child’s birth;
  • Those who have a residence order or Child Arrangements Order in force in their favour;
  • Those with an adoption order in their favour;
  • Those appointed as the child’s guardian.

Separated parents can both still have parental responsibility even though they are no longer together. If you have parental responsibility, it might not mean you automatically have the right to spend time with your children or even live with them. However, both parents must be involved and agree on important decisions about the child’s life. If you there are any disputes, you can apply for a Specific Issue Order.

How can you obtain Parental Responsibility?

If you don’t have Parental Responsibility, there are a number of ways that you can obtain it. These include:

  • Seeking the mother’s agreement to re-register as the child’s father on the birth certificate;
  • Seeking the mother’s agreement to enter into a mutual Parental Responsibility agreement;
  • Where there is a dispute, you can apply to the court for a Parental Responsibility Order;
  • Be appointed the child’s guardian;
  • Obtain a residence order in your favour;
  • Obtain an adoption order in your favour;
  • Stepparents and the civil partners of parents are able to obtain Parental Responsibility if both parents with parental responsibility agree, or by a court order.

Do Unmarried Fathers Have Parental Responsibility?

How can our Family Solicitors help you?

Our team of experienced family solicitors can provide legal advice throughout the process. We can tell you which steps to take and what the likelihood of your case succeeding is. We can also explain your rights and support your case from start to finish.

If you would like to find out how we can help, please call us on 0161 941 4000, or contact us online.

Meet Our Specialists

Home-grown or recruited from national, regional or City firms. Our specialists are experts in their fields and respected by their peers.

Jane Tenquist

Jane Tenquist

Jane is a Partner and Head of the Family Law Team

Nichola Bright

Nichola Bright

Nichola is a Senior Associate in our Family Law department

Sarah Whitelegge

Sarah Whitelegge

Sarah is a Senior Associate in our Family Law department

Gabrielle Dugan

Gabrielle Dugan

Gabrielle is an Associate within the Family Department

Vikki Noone

Vikki Noone

Vikki is a Trainee Solicitor within the Family Team


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